Dogs as family; losing one hurts as much

We are a typical family. I have my parents, and I also have two siblings. You may be wondering why the numbers don’t add up. There’s supposed to be only five people in our family, so why is there a seventh member? Well, I learned the hard way that a family isn’t solely made up of humans. Dogs are also family members. Once we learn to love them, they become a part of our lives, and they also cause us heartbreak when they leave.

I never thought that dogs could break our hearts, too. I felt that they were just expendable household additions. We could replace them easily when one dies. I never knew that as they entered our lives, they also changed it for good. We’ll never look at them in the same way, and our lives were forever changed when one of them left us too soon.

I woke up to the sound of my sister, sobbing. My initial thought was that she was crying over something superficial, as when my mom wouldn’t take her to the pool. I dismissed it and tried going back to sleep. When I woke up again, she was still crying, and it got to my nerves. A cancelled plan was too shallow to complain over, I thought. I was about to berate her when my mom entered my room and told me quietly that our second dog was dead. I couldn’t believe that our fur baby, officially known as Caleb, was gone. I went to the back to see him for myself. He was lying still as if he was still asleep. I touched his body, but I couldn’t feel his heartbeat. I wanted him to open his eyes and wag his tail again like he always did whenever he saw one of us. He never did.

I remember when Caleb arrived at our home. He was a quiet puppy, probably because he was sick. On his first day, we immediately knew that there were worms in his stomach, so we took him to the vet. We even bought him fresh milk because he seemed to prefer drinking it. He gained energy after a while, and he became energetic. He’d follow us around in the kitchen, and bark whenever he knew that it was time to eat.  I fondly called him Mekeni, because his body looked like a hotdog. Maybe there was some dachshund blood in him, but we never knew for sure.

He was our smartest dog. Out first dog, Joshua, was our guard dog. Caleb was the smart one. He’d always find a way around the barriers that we’d put in the kitchen. More than once, we’d be surprised to see him strolling in the living room, having surpassed the boxes heaped on the kitchen entrance. He’d wriggle his fat body on the small spaces and push the barriers with his body. He knew that he was heavy and could move the boxes. I wondered if he was a dog, or if he had a human mind because of his intelligence.

He was also a lazy dog. We took him on short walking trips, but the spoiled, fat puppy would sit until one of us would carry him. He loved being carried. We would complain that he was lazy, and he’d never be healthy because he didn’t want to walk, but he’d sit quietly in our arms with a smug grin on his face.

When he got older, my dad put him outside with Joshua. I always worried about him because Joshua wasn’t too friendly. He’d fight with Caleb, but Caleb wouldn’t allow himself to be bullied, and I was proud of him for it. However, the time came when he didn’t eat much. His appetite dwindled, and so did his energy. Add up the unrelenting ticks and lice that clung to his body no matter how much we washed him. He was always quiet, and most of his time was spent on sleeping. 

On his last night, I don’t know what prompted me to go to him. As usual, he moved closer to me as I stroked his body. I removed whatever ticks that I could while talking to him. I said that I’d take him to the vet because those parasites kept bothering him. I also guarded him while he ate because Joshua was prone to stealing Caleb’s food, and Caleb was always too weak to fight back. He ate a small portion and went back to his former position. That’s my last memory of him. When I woke up the next day, he was gone. 

I kept crying the next day. I never knew that I’d miss him so much and that he’d never reach his first birthday. I also blame myself for not taking care of him when he was sick. I can’t change anything because he’s dead. I hope that he’s a happy dog now, and he’s free from pain. Our family will always remember and love Caleb, the seventh member of our family.